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NPR CEO Apologizes for Mishandling Juan Williams Firing

News analyst Juan Williams was fired by NPR after making comments about Muslims on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" last week. Richard Drew

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller apologized on Sunday for how the radio network dealt with the termination of Juan Williams, an NPR political analyst who was fired last week after making controversial statements about Muslims on Fox News.

In a statement, Schiller apologized to her program colleagues for "not doing a better job of handling" Williams' dismissal. She added, however, that the network stands "firmly behind" the decision to do so.

"I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode," Schiller wrote in an email obtained by Politico. "I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public."

Williams was relieved of his duties as an NPR news analyst last week, after making comments on Fox News - where he is a paid contributor - that he got "nervous" when he saw Muslims on airplane flights.

The decision was roundly criticized, and conservatives including Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee called for NPR to no longer receive federal money on grounds of censorship.

NPR has said that Williams' recent statements on Fox News were not the only cause for his dismissal.

"This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR's integrity and values as a news organization," Schiller said in the statement. "Juan Williams' comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years."

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"There have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line. He famously said last year something about Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael. This isn't a case of one strike and you're out," Schiller said in an interview last week.

Schiller added that "the process that followed the decision was unfortunate" and wrote that management should have met with Williams in person. At the same time, she continued, Williams had been "explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR's standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst."

Despite its reputation as a publicly funded network, the majority of NPR's funding comes from program fees and station dues. In fact, the station does not receive any direct federal funding for operations, though a small percentage of its budget comes indirectly from the federal government.

Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.
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